Anthony Johnson was 'just waiting for that call'
Anthony Johnson wasn’t sure where his football career was headed.
After graduating from Florida International University, he was invited to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ rookie minicamp. It felt like the perfect scenario. He is from Camden County, Ga. – just north of Jacksonville – so his NFL opportunity was unfolding close to home.
But, when he didn’t make the team, he was left to assess his career options. He wasn’t disappointed. He just had decisions to make.
“It was a great experience,” he said. “I was able to do something a lot of people dream of – put on an NFL helmet. At the end of the day, it’s a numbers game.”
With a son, Anthony Jr., to think of, he wanted to find a way to continue his career, while making sure he could take care of his family.
“I decided to stay focused, keep working,” he said.
The XFL provided the answer he was looking for.
“The XFL was a good possibility for me to stay at a level where I can continue to play football,” Johnson said. “I wasn’t ready to give up football. I’m still not ready to give up football just yet.
“I just feel like I have more of a purpose. I have this feeling that I’m just not done with football yet.”
When Johnson landed in the league’s draft pool, he didn’t know where he would end up. All he could do was wait as a flood of emotions played on loop while he thought about his football future.
“I was thinking a lot of things, honestly,” Johnson said. “There was a part of me that was like, if it happens then it happens. I’m a strong believer in my faith. I just feel like everything happens for a reason.
“The other part of me was like, I have to get called. I know I have to get a call. I was just waiting for that call.”
He got the call he was looking for. Now he is preparing for the cross-country trek to the Pacific Northwest.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of friends and family members who have been to Seattle. I’ve got some family that lives out in Seattle. Everybody tells me it’s so beautiful out there. I’m pretty excited to get out there.”
But, while he’s anxious to get back on the field, it’s going to be an adjustment moving almost 3,000 miles away from his son, who turns 5 in December.
“That’s why there was always a part of me that was like, if it doesn’t happen then it doesn’t happen,” he said. “I know I have my son here and, being all the way in Seattle, it’s going to be difficult for me not being able to see him as much.
“But my family makes everything work. I can’t thank them enough for being my backbone.”
Johnson’s son provides the motivation he needs to keep pushing forward.
“I’m just trying to balance it out, do everything I possibly can for him,” he said. “It’s a tough task, but with the support of my family, I get it done.”
When the Dragons open minicamp, Johnson plans to make the most of his opportunity. He isn’t taking anything for granted. His work ethic landed him on Butch Davis’ radar at FIU and he plans to bring drive with him to Seattle.
“I didn’t play my first three years at FIU,” he said. “When coach Davis came in, he gave me that opportunity and I can’t thank him enough. It was an up-and-down battle. There were times when I just wanted to give up and leave, just call it quits.
“I knew there was a purpose and that purpose was my son, just being able to provide for him.”
Before he ever saw the field in college, he worked to make his teammates better while waiting for his opportunity.
“I made the best out of my time in those three years on the scout team, doing my best to try and help those offensive guys get prepared,” he said. “I took pride in that. I took pride in being on the scout team. I took pride in giving my all just so those offensive guys had a good look.”
Now, with another chance to play professional football, Johnson heads to Seattle with something to prove.
“I’m always ready for any kind of competition,” he said. “I’m used to it. I’m ready for it.”